PEORIA — When JB Pritzker gets down to business after taking the oath of office Monday, one of the top aides he'll be getting advice from as Illinois' new governor will be relying in part on her Peoria roots.

As senior adviser, Nikki Budzinski will be in the room and part of major initiatives including working to deliver an on-time, balanced budget, raise the minimum wage and considering graduated income tax proposals, she said in an interview Friday ahead of the inauguration.

Pritzker has credited Budzinski with helping craft the strategy to focus more campaign energies outside of Chicago and the collar counties. Her emphasis, he says, was on taking time to "travel throughout downstate Illinois and listen to people and the real challenges they're going through."

On Election Day, Pritzker won a plurality of the vote in 15 counties — far more than recent Democratic Party candidates — including Peoria and Knox.

"I think that one of the things I'm really excited about is bringing the voice of central Illinois and southern Illinois and northern Illinois ... and being an advocate for downstate communities that really need their voices to be heard," she said.

Budzinski predicted that Pritzker will continue to make regular visits to downstate communities, and, pointing to agency chiefs like former state Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, that Pritzker has selected, and the statewide slate of transition committee advisers, she said she believes "you'll see his government reflect people from downstate Illinois."

Budzinski points, too, to a stop Pritzker made last month as he again toured the state. He stopped at the Peoria County Jail to meet with detainees there who are part of a jobs partnership program — helping ensure that those leaving incarceration are ready for jobs on the outside, increasing the likelihood they do not re-offend.

"I really thought that was a powerful stop," she said, pointing to it as an example of holding up programs — in this case, championed by a Republican sheriff — that have the opportunity to make a difference in downstate residents' lives.

Budzinski's approach and work ethic has also won plaudits from across the aisle. State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, praised her Friday at the joint city-county legislative breakfast as "one of the most talented and hard-working people I've ever seen in government."

She brings with her to the job a wealth of Illinois and national political experience, including governmental and political stints with former Comptroller Dan Hynes — himself set to become one of Pritzker's three deputy governors — as well as work on national labor issues and on Hillary Clinton's campaign.

But before all that, she saw public service first through the lens of her mom. Cheryl Budzinski is a former president and active member of the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria, and served a stint on the Peoria County Board.

"She's always been an activist, and has taught both her daughters to be active citizens," Nikki Budzinski said.

The younger Budzinski's interest in politics grew after an internship with U.S. Sen. Paul Simon during her time at the University of Illinois and in Simon's final year in the Senate.

"I loved that he was a very strong voice for southern Illinois, being from Makanda, and also had a pragmatic kind of progressivism to him," she said.

That means that Simon "knew how to get things done, and yet was a real champion of change."